It's Still Too Early to Crown LeBron James King
We’ve all seen how he has guarded every single position (including center) whenever the occasion has called for the need, and he has succeeded. He can score at will, literally, and is so solid he gets more “and-ones” finishing at the rim than he would if he were signed by the shoe company with the same name. He pumps out more triple-doubles than his pores produce sweat. If James and Michael Jordan were to play a game of one-on-one while both were in their primes, I honestly couldn’t say with certainty that Jordan would win. And I’m a Chicago Bulls fan.
All this, and James is just barely hitting his peak. The league will be a scary place for anyone not wearing a Miami Heat jersey in the near future, and this guy will be able to perform at an even higher level without the pressure of being title-less.
We are all extremely privileged to have this opportunity to watch James play at this level. I appreciate his talent and love watching him dominate (when he's not playing my Bulls).
And yet I still must root against him.
Of course, the most immediate reason is because James is the opposition (I got to gloat so often during the 90’s while Jordan ripped everyone else to shreds, I almost feel like this is atonement). My team is the Heat’s only rival in the East, and watching James cut through the Eastern Conference without having to go through his biggest roadblock felt cheap. James insisted at the beginning of the postseason that there should be no asterisk assigned to this year’s title, even with the condensed season and plethora of injuries. And since the creaky Boston Celtics were able to force a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, it seems almost criminal that James and the Heat had a path to the championship that didn’t include Derrick Rose. Would the much younger and athletic Bulls have been able to force a different result?
So…an asterisk season? Maybe not. But a season with huge question marks? Definitely.
And good for James for finally getting a ring, so he can finally get to work on his “not one, not two...” promise. Joakim Noah called the Heat “Hollywood as hell” last year after his Eastern Conference Finals exit, and judging from the Heat’s celebratory rap concert (and apparently insane bar tab), his assessment isn’t far off. Pair that with their reputation for being “divas” on the court when calls don’t go their way and you’d think that concert was part of a Grammy after party. There is only so much ego-flexing non-Heat fans can stomach.
And that’s the problem with James’ entitlement. Granted it was worse before he became a champion, but there is still so much work to be done. Rest assured the scrutiny will not stop after this season. Will the Heat repeat? Will James’ title run end at one? At two? He is always suggesting he isn’t worried about his legacy, but if James only has one title, that resume looks pretty slim compared to the giants he’s compared to. No, there has to be pressure for more success. This title is only the beginning of what’s expected.
(Don’t get me wrong, the Heat have all the reason in the world to celebrate. But C’mon—an LMFAO concert and a $200,000 bar tab on the night of your coronation? This is part of the reason people wanted them to crash and burn, and why the Dallas Mavericks were rooted for).
Lastly (and I’ll only touch on this, because I’ve got another article coming up exploring this a little more), James won this title with Miami, not Cleveland. And yes, it’s not entirely his fault for having to go elsewhere in order to win—the Cavaliers were just too inept in building around him. But for all the whining that Jordan, Bryant, and Magic Johnson did early in their careers, they stuck to their original teams. Even Larry Bird stuck with his Celtics for five seasons after his last Finals appearance in 1987, instead of trying to sneak on a contender as a veteran looking for another championship. Shaquille O’Neal will be remembered as an all-time great, but to what city does he owe his allegiance? Los Angeles? Miami? Orlando?
(Man, it must suck being a Cavs fan right now).
At the end of the day, greatness surely isn’t determined by success alone—ask any of the Hall of Famers that retired without a ring. Ask Adam Morrison, who has not one, but two rings from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James would be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame even if he never got a ring. His ability cannot be questioned.
But the greatest find a way to get it done multiple times. Like Jordan did. Like Kobe Bryant is still trying to do. And like LeBron James will (or so has been promised). Am I going too far by already saying this championship isn’t enough to vindicate James’ efforts in the eyes of his naysayers? Maybe.
But then again, so is crowning him the “King” when his incumbency has only just begun.